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Summer 2023 Newsletter

Summer 2023 Newsletter

Welcome to the Wisconsin AAC Network Newsletter. We are hoping that you are relaxing this summer. To me summer is always a relaxing time and time to be with our friends and family. This year I had a crazy six months with speeches, publishing blogs, working on the network, and family things. My parents said why don’t you take off the month of July and just relax. I said to them ha ha ha and do you remember who you are talking to? But I thought it over. It would be nice to take this opportunity to relax and think about how my life is going. So I did and it has been amazing and wonderful to look back at my past eight years {I started the Wisconsin AAC Network}, it has been an amazing ride. I feel rested and excited about the future!! One of my thoughts that I had during July was are we doing the right thing here at the network, are we supporting families, giving professionals the help that they need, and are we highlighting people who use AAC? I will let you be the judge after I tell you the facts. On our email list we have 305 people and on our Facebook page we have 602 likes and 645 followers. Wow, that is a lot of people that are interested in AAC in Wisconsin. I couldn’t do this without the phenomenal leadership team that we have. Thanks everyone!!!

 So before fall start up again, please try to take some time to relax and think about your life, are you doing the right thing, what is one goal that you have for yourself, and if you are a professional choose one of your student or client that you have tried AAC before and it didn’t work out, please consider trying it again. If you are a family member, maybe you have been having trouble with the professionals on your child or adult’s team. Use this time to take a break, relax, and be ready to work with anyone and everyone. To the AAC Communicators, you might have trouble with people understanding your hopes and dreams for your future, you feel lonely, or you don’t know where to turn next. Believe me, I know how you feel too well, but we need to work with the team members that we have and try to understand where they are coming from. I hope everyone can relax some more until the fall comes. 

Happy relaxing. 

Newsletter Index:

  • Welcome from Mike Hipple page 1
  • Chatter Matters! Communication Camp page 2
  • How to find an AAC Friendly Camp page 2
  • Summer Accessible Sports page 3
  • Back to School Blog page 4&5
  • AAC on the Web page 5

images of campers, camp counselor and parent with child holding aac device; text is chatter matters! communication camp June 16-19, 2023 at UW-Whitewaterby Mike Hipple

I was lucky to volunteer at Chatter Matter Camp. It is a weekend long camp for children who use their communication device and their whole family can come including their sibling or siblings. This was my 5th  time volunteering at the camp and this year was their 10th  year doing the camp. The camp is put on by the Wisconsin Variety Charity {Children’s Charity} and Wisconsin University of Whitewater Speech and Hearing program, this is a class for students to take. The students who take this class plan the activities for kids who are using their device and their sibling or siblings to do, when that is happening the parents are learning how to help their kid to communicate better and what they can ask for in school to support their kid. We had a lot of fun and the campers were able to talk with one another, this is my favorite thing about camp. Be on the lookout for information about 2024 camp coming late fall.

rustic camp lodge buildings on a gravel road with vans, trucks and bus

How to find an AAC Friendly Camp? By Kelly Fonner –  Find a whole list of camps for people who use AAC at these sites below. AAC Camps are a great experience for campers, staff and family! Camps also provide much needed exposure to AAC to current and future SLPs, Teachers, Therapists and Personal Caregivers. Some camps are for just campers who use AAC to be together; some are for campers and their family members to share time together; some camps have a focus on literacy & AAC or sports & AAC. Day camps operate during typical school hours. Overnight camps provide nursing support for medications and physical care procedures. If you missed going to camp this summer, start looking into a camp for the summer of 2024! I worked at AAC camps for over 17 years and learned so much each summer and made so many friends with campers, their families and colleagues that I still keep in touch with. It is well worth getting out that sleeping bag…picture of young camper, her AAC system and Kelly at Building Bridges Camp in early 2000s

Summer Accessible Sports by Kelly FonnerQuincy and his dad on their adapted bike heading down their driveway for a ride

I had the great fun of being a part of Iowa’s RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) ride this year as a support driver. I’m always looking out for inclusive opportunities for people I know and students that I work with. The biking community has so many options. There were several styles of adapted bikes on the ride of 28,000+ riders. This father – son team, Team Quincy, were also riding to raise money for Make A Wish foundation. See more about them through this video from a local news channel in Iowa. https://youtu.be/5iUSP440oeY text to image reads welcome our new board member! and in handwriting, Chris Madutt; images of team leader, Mason, his dad and sister behind his running bike

Here in several cities in Wisconsin, the biking, running, swimming group of My Team Triumph can be a terrific experience for individuals with physical challenges who want to be active in the outdoors. My husband and I participated for several years in the Lake Geneva division. He rode a bike and I cheered everyone on and moved boats from one place to another. Find out more about where there are organized events, practices and people to become involved with. There are 8 main groups in Wisconsin, in the Northeast, Southeast, Lake Geneva area, Central and North Central Wisconsin, the Lake Shore and EauClaire areas. They provide adapted bikes, running chairs and boats. You provide the energy and fun! There is a membership fee and a fund raising component. There are also memberships for people who want to do the biking, running and/or swimming. https://www.myteamtriumph-wi.org/about 
graphic from Girls on the Run displaying several mottos along a road path from discouraging messages such as "be seen and not heard" building to encouraging images and messages such as  "limitless potential"

I am on the team of a 6th student with Rett Syndrome located in the southern california area who started this year in Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a national organization created for all girls in 3rd through 8th grades. This group is all about expanding possibilities for all types of young women, no matter how athletic they may or may not be. There are 6 groups in Wisconsin that can be found in Eau Claire, Appleton, Fon du Lac, Madison and Milwaukee. https://www.girlsontherun.org/connect-locally/  The coaches follow a curriculum that brings the children together. One of their images reinforces inclusion, diversity, equity and access. https://www.girlsontherun.org/inclusion-diversity/ 

Back to school blog By Mike Hipple 

Wow, it is already time to start thinking about the fall. You know what that means, school is starting soon again. I first wrote this blog three years ago, but I thought that I would reshare this information again. Plus I have some new thoughts and ideas for you guys to use. Thirteen years ago, I wrote a children’s book about starting school for children who have a disability. I wrote this book and   give workshops on this    topic, because I always had the hardest time starting a new school year.    Transitions   can be a  challenge if they don’t have a voice or don’t have a huge vocabulary to tell adults and peers how are they feel about the upcoming changes. I want to share with you 10 tips for your family to have a great start of the school year. Number ten starts getting back to a normal schedule. I know I have been sleeping in, have you? Children and teenagers need to have 8 to 10 hours of good sleep. You might like to start going to bed 10 minutes earlier each week to help your child so they have a good night’s sleep. Number nine read, read, and read to them. You could read anything like the local newspaper, comic books, and blogs. Anything to get them started on reading for the school year. Number eight starts wanting more from them! If they are at one word responses on their device go to two word sentences, notice that I said sentences not two words. I believe that we need to say sentences to them, not one or two word answers, because in their mind they will start thinking in sentences. We have a lot of children who use one icon that represent  a Sentence.  We can help them start using sentences  by putting words that they know on their device.  Number seven get out their I E  P and read it to them on a level they can understand. After every goal give them examples that they understand. You can do this with anyone who is in school by talking to them at their understandable level. Like if they have a goal saying they will know their multiplication facts, you might like to say you are going to be working on a new math skill this year, I know that you like math. Be positive always. Number six talk up school to them everyday and with everybody. Talk about their teachers, their friends, and their therapists. Say things like I wonder what their name have been doing or I am so excited to see their name. Anything to get them excited about the new school year. Remember to stay positive always! Staying positive when you talk about the upcoming school year is important because you want to show them that school is a phenomenal place to go. We are halfway through, it is time to have an ad for the United States Society of AAC. Don’t worry PRC I will make this quick. Families, we need you to join our national society of AAC. We want to hear from you!! check  out the website, USSAAC.org.  Okay, number five, make a game about going to school and play it at least once a week. It needs to be fun and enjoyable. Number four drives by the school and bus stop many times. On the way, they found their friend’s house. Number three ask for a meeting with their school team to set the year off on the right foot. Tip: if you can bake, bring something tasty to the meeting. Number two makes the weekend before school start a family fun weekend. Do their favorite activities and play the game that you made up about starting school a lot. Number one, remember to have a lot of fun!!!!! School years are so fun for typical kids and parents with the dances and community nights, why not have fun yourself and your children. I love and PRC loves good giveaways, so I have four copies of my book and two memberships to USSAAC. All you need to do is write or have your child write a paragraph on your AAC journey. Have a great start to school everyone! New this year which is 2023: have your child or students write a blog!! I am reading a great book called Blogs, Wikis, podcasts, and other powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. This book came out in 2009 so some of the information is out of date. Mr. Richardson believes that all students should have a blog and I agree with him. The students who use a communication device need to work on their writing and what a fun way to work on this. I love to read PRC ambassadors who are beginning writers, because they are just starting out. It is okay for students to make writing mistakes, because they are learning how to write and post something on the internet. If you would search my name, you might find my blog that I started when I was a teenager called My World. I know that I made many, many, and many writing mistakes and I am okay with it. I hope someone can learn from my mistakes and it would help them. So please consider letting your child or students start a blog, because it will teach them how to be a writer and have fun! Happy writing and good luck with the school year!!! 

AAC On The Web 

Let’s see what is happening in the AAC community on the internet this quarter. Please take a look at these blogs. https://aaclanguagelab.com/articles/margaret_digitalhumanities?mode=view

Community Outreach 

One of the AAC Network leadership team’s favorite things to do is community outreach to have more people educate on AAC. This is how we know that Wisconsin’s public schools and community places know how to best work with people who use AAC and people who should be using a system. Family members might be surprised to know that a student in the assistive technology and special education field might not need to take a class on AAC to get their degree. For the small school districts, sometimes they can’t send a team to Closing The Gap or the Assistive Technology Industry Association to learn what is new and happening with assistive technology. We understand that and we would like to help. If you have an event for your co-workers and or community and you would like to have one of us or more come to talk about AAC, if we can make that work in our schedule we would love to do this. This spring I was asked to come to the Janesville School District to speak and I answered yes. The day was pretty awesome!! They had 50 school professionals and a great mix. A school psychologist came and I thought to myself OMG, they gave up a summer day to learn about how to best support students who use AAC, they must care about the students. So, if you are planning learning opportunities for your co-workers, please email us to discuss how we can help you to build up AAC awareness in your school district or your community. By Mike Hipple

AAC Awareness

Wow, it is hard to believe that this year is the 16th year that the world will be celebrating AAC awareness month. We think about this month is an excellent opportunity to get a discount on the AAC apps and programs, but please make sure that you take some time to celebrate with your AAC Communicator or Communicators. Consider having them look up an important person who uses AAC or an important person in the history of AAC and teach their class, their day program, or their group home about them. Go on YouTube to watch some of the phenomenal videos that they have with some of the heroes that our field has and have your students or your child write a short thank you letter to the person. Make posterboards about what is AAC and have them put up in the environment to educate people what it is and why it is important. Talk to someone who is not in the community and tell them about it. Make children, adults, or yourself feel special and unique, thank them or yourself for all of the hard work that they do or you do! Have a terrific AAC awareness month in anyway you wish to celebrate and please share on social media outlets!! 


    • Mike Hipple

      Thank you so much


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